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Christ is the door and the good shepherd: divers opinions of him: he proveth by his works, that he is Christ the Son of God: escapeth the Jews, and goeth again beyond Jordan, where many believe on him.
Anno Domini 32.
John 10:1. Verily, verily, I say unto you,— Our Lord, having reproved the Pharisees in the foregoing chapter, for shutting their eyes against the evidence of his divine mission, continued the reproof by describing the characters of a true and false teacher; leaving them, who had so unjustly excommunicated the beggar, to judge to which of the classes they belonged. Jesus being now in the outer court of the temple, near the sheep which were there exposed to sale for sacrifice, he uses the language of the ancient prophets, who often compared the teachers of their own times to shepherds, and the people to sheep: accordingly, in describing the characters of the scribes and Pharisees, he made use of the same metaphor; shewing that there are two kinds of evil shepherds or teachers—One, who instead of entering in by the door, to lead the flock out and feed it, enter in some other way, with an intention to steal, kill, and destroy; another, who, though they may have entered in by the door, feed their flocks with the dispositions of hirelings. For when they see the wolf coming, or any danger approaching, they desert their flocks, because they love themselves only. The Pharisees plainly shewed themselves to be of the former character, by excommunicating the man that had been born blind, because he would not act contraryto the dictates of his reason and conscience to please them. But though they cast him out of their church, Christ received him into his; which is the true church, the spiritual inclosure, where the sheep go in and out, and find pasture. Some eminent commentators are of opinion, that the whole of this parabolical discourse was taken from the sheep which were inclosed in little folds within the outward court of the temple, whither they were brought by their shepherds to be sold; because our Lord speaks of such folds as the shepherd himself could not enter, till the porter opened to him the door, namely, of the temple. Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that entereth not by the door, &c. that is, "I assure you, whosoever in any age of the church assumed the office of a teacher without commission from me, and without a sincere regard to the edification and salvation of souls, was a thief and a robber; and in the present age he is no better, who assumes that office without my commission; particularly without believing onme, and without intending my honour, and the good of my church:" for, as our Lord calls himself the door, Joh 10:9 entering by the door must signify acting byhis commission; which could not be done without believing on him and regarding his interest. Others, however, object to this interpretation. "I cannot think," says one of them, "whatever occasion Christ might take from the sight of the sheep in the temple, to represent his people under that image, and himself as a shepherd, that he would describe them like sheep shut up in little folds to be sold, for sacrifice; nor does the shepherd's leading them out, &c. seem to agree with this circumstance. In countries where there were so many wild beasts, it might be necessary to have the folds better secured than among us; and the chief shepherd might often leave a servant to watch them while thus shut up, and come himself to lead them out to pasture in the morning." The reader must judge what force there is in this objection: it seems to me most reasonable to suppose, that our Lord, according to his usual manner, took his general idea from the sheep which were present in the temple; but by no means confined himself to the particular circumstances of those sheep; carrying on his discourse in a metaphorical manner, relative to the general and well known customs of shepherds in that country.
John 10:2-4. But he that entereth, &c.— "The teacher who believes on me, and acts by my commission, is properly the shepherd; to him the door-keeper openeth, and the sheep hear his voice. The people of God, knowing him to be the true pastor, hearken unto him, and he calleth, &c." Our Lord here alludes to the customs of Judea; where the shepherds gave names to their sheep, which answered to them as dogs and horses do with us; following them to their pasture, and wherever their shepherds thought fit to lead them, who commonly went before them, playing on some musical instrument. See Virg. Eclogue 2: John 10:23. The moral or spiritual meaning of these circumstances is, that every faithful minister of Christattends upon the duties of his ministry, making them his principal business; that he spends his time among his people; that he knows their characters and tempers; while true believers are obedient to his instructions, which the faithful pastor delivers always with great plainness, concealing nothing, however disagreeable to the corrupt inclinations of men.
John 10:7. I am the door of the sheep.— As our Lord's parable was not understood, he graciously proceeds to explain it to his audience; and in the first place he informs them, that by the door he meant himself. I am the door of the sheep. Perhaps this is a metonymy for I am the door of the sheep-fold; or our Lord's meaning may have been, "I am not only the door, by which the shepherds must enter,—he whose right alone it is to admit men to the office and dignity of shepherds; but I am also the door of the sheep. It is by me that men enter into the spiritual inclosure of the church." It would be very impertinent to run a longparallel here between Christ and a door: the resemblance plainly centres in this one circumstance, that as a man must observe and pass through the door, in order to his making an unsuspected entrance into a sheep-fold: so he must maintain a proper regard to Christ, in order to his being a true teacher in the church; and must pass as it were through him, or by his authority, into that office. It is by a simile very nearly resembling this, that Christ elsewhere calls himself the way, Ch. John 14:6.
John 10:8. All that ever came before me— "All those who in former times assumed the characters of teachers of religion, without commission from me, are thieves and robbers." Here, as in many other instances, our Lord's words are very elliptical, and must be filled up from what goes before. The gloss that we have ventured to give, is taken from Joh 10:1 and seems altogether necessary, because it does not clearly appear from history, that any one among the Jews assumed the title of Messiah before our Lord came. It is true that Theudas and Judas of Galilee are mentioned by Gamaliel as having given themselves out for persons of note; Acts 5:37. But with respect to Judas, it is evident from Josephus that he did not assume the title of Messiah: he only gave rise to a political faction, whose distinction was, that they would pay no taxes to the Romans, or any foreign power. And from the character which the Jewish doctors give of Theudas, it does not appear that he called himself the Messiah. Like Judas of Galilee, he only pretended to be some extraordinary person, who had eminent skill in the law, and taught opinions contrary to those which were commonly received. Perhaps he called himself a prophet, to give his doctrines the greater weight.
John 10:9. By me if any man enter in,— "If any man believeth on me, he shall become a true member of God's church on earth, and, if faithful, shall from time to time receive such instructions as shall nourish his soul unto eternal life." Our Lord here seems to allude to the common pastures, and to the method of grazing sheep in the East. They were confined in the folds by night, to secure them from wolves and other wild beasts; but were let out to graze in the day time, when the danger from those animals was not so great. See 1 Samuel 18:16.
John 10:10. The thief cometh not but for to steal, &c.— "I am no thief or robber, as you may easily know, by considering that the intention of such is only to steal, and kill, and destroy the flock. They assumed the character of teachers divinely commissioned, for no other reason but to promote their own interest, at the expence of their souls: whereas I am not come merely to give you life, but to give it more abundantly than it is given by Mosesin the dispensation of the law." The phrase more abundantly may at the same time refer ultimately, to the provision which Christ has made for the future and eternal happiness of his faithful people. "I am come that they might have life now by their entrance into my church and fold, through me, the door of the sheep; and that, persevering unto death, they might have a more abundant life of glory, when they go out and depart from the present life of grace: and for this life of grace they shall find sufficient pasture and support in the appointed means; but for the life of glory, the Lamb himself in the midst of the throne, shall feed them." See Psalms 23:0.
John 10:11-12. I am the good shepherd:— "I am not a hireling shepherd, appointed by the owner to take care of the flock; but I am the good Shepherd, promised Isaiah 40:11.Ezekiel 34:23; Ezekiel 34:23; Eze 34:31 and the proprietor of the sheep; as is evident from hence, that I cheerfully endanger my life for the safety of the flock: whereas a hireling, proposing nothing but his own gain, when he sees the wolf coming,deserts the sheep, because, instead of loving them, he loves himself, and will not expose himself to any danger on their account; so that the beast of prey, without any resistance, tears some of the flock to pieces, and disperses the rest." Hence it plainly appears to be the duty of every minister of the gospel to spend his whole time in ordinary with his flock or flocks; for if approaching danger is no excuse for his fleeing away, and leaving them, far less will interest, or pleasure, or any less matter, be an excuse for such unfaithfulness.
John 10:13. The hireling— It is not barely receiving of hire which denominates a man a hireling,—(for the labourer is worthy of his hire, Jesus Christ himself being the judge; yea, and the Lord hath ordained, that they who preach the gospel, should live of the gospel;) but it is the loving of hire; the loving of hire more than the work;—working for the sake of hire. He is a hireling, who would not work were it not for the hire; to whom this is the great, if not the only motive of working. O merciful God! if a man who works only for hire be such a wretch, a mere thief and robber—what is he who continually takes the hire, and yet does not work at al
John 10:14-15. I—know my sheep, and am known, &c.— Know here, as in many other passages of scripture, implies much more than a mere speculative knowledge;—a knowledge of love and approbation. The force of the passage therefore is this: "Being the good Shepherd and owner of the sheep, I am so careful and solicitous in attending my flock, that Inot only know every particular sheep, but I know every thing relating to my sheep. I know the circumstances wherein they are placed, am well acquainted with their wants, and can judge of what aids they stand in need. Besides, I love them all with an ardent affection, and approve of their obedience to me. And as I know, love, and approve my sheep, so I am known and beloved by them in return: for they have just apprehensions of my dignity and character. In particular, they know that I am their Shepherd; that I am able to feed them with knowledge, to deliver them from the punishment of sin, and to bestow on them everlasting life. And this our knowledge and love of each other is like that which subsists between the Father and me. I know my sheep, and am known of mine, (Joh 10:15 even as the Father knoweth me, and I know the Father;—for so the passage should be read;) and as a proof of the greatness of my love, I will lay down my life for the sheep, which no hireling will ever do."
John 10:16. And other sheep I have,— "To convince you that I know my sheep, and am known of them, I tell you that I have other sheep besides the Jews; I have sheep among the Gentiles: for I know those in every country, whose honesty of disposition will induce them, through my grace, to accept of the gospel in the love of it. (See John 6:37; John 6:39.) These I will bring into my church, and they shall know me, and shall distinguish my voice from that of a stranger; they will cheerfully submit to my laws, and there shall be one flock, (ποιμνη, ) and one Shepherd; there shall be but one visible church, when the Gentiles are converted, consisting of them and the Jews: as there is but one Shepherd to feed and govern them, there shall be no more any middle wall of partition."
John 10:17-18. Therefore doth my Father love me,— "Nothing can shew the great regard I have for the salvation of mankind in a stronger light, than my laying down my life to promote and secure it; and this is so correspondent with the operations of infinite goodness, that my Father cannot but look upon me as an object of infinite love, even on that account." Instead of that I might take it again, we may render the words so as to take it again; for had our Lord laid down his life, and remained under the power of death, it could not have been concluded that he had made a sufficient atonement, or that God was reconciled to mankind by his sacrifice of himself: but as he laid down his life so as to resume it again, it was evident that his death had atoned for the sins of mankind, and that he who had conquered death, was able to save and rescue those from the power of death who died in his faith. Further we may observe, it was necessary that the sufferings of Christ should be voluntary, to become either meritorious or just; whence it is that he adds so emphatically, no man taketh my life from me, Joh 10:18 but I lay it down of myself: I have power to lay it down, &c. which gives us a most sublime idea of our Lord's dignity and person. But this idea is heightened, when it is considered, that he had not only power to lay down his life, but likewise could take it again. As a mortal, death was common to him with other men; but what mortal, though he should willinglysacrifice his life, could have it in his power to resume it? That our Lord voluntarily resigned his life, evidently appeared from the strong cry uttered just before his death, with which the centurion was so much affected, Luke 23:47. That he had full power to do so, will appear, because he had life in himself, Ch. Joh 5:26 and likewise because he resumed his life after he had quitted it. Our Lord adds, This commandment, or commission, have I received of my Father. "I do not lay down my life, or rise again from the dead, without the appointment of my Father: with respect to both, I act in strict conformity to his will." Our Lord's receiving this commission is not to be considered as the ground of his power to lay down and resume his life; for this he had in himself, as having an original right to dispose thereof, antecedent to the Father's commission: but this commission was the reason why he thus used his power in laying down his life. The present passage affords us a full answer to the infidel objection, that by allowing so much merit to the death and love of Christ, we greatly detract from the love of God the Father; for as the redemption of the world by the Son may be inferred from this verse, as in strict consistence with the dispensation of the Father, so the benevolence, goodness, and mercy of the Father appear to have conspired together for this great end; and how much soever we acknowledge as owing to the merits of the Son, we owe no less to the Father.
John 10:19-21. There was a division therefore— What our Lord said, affected the minds of the Jews in differentways; for some of them cried out that he was possessed and mad, and that it was folly to hear him: others, judging more impartially of him and his doctrine, declared that his discourses were not the words of a lunatic, nor his miracles the works of a devil. Moreover, they asked his enemies, if they imagined any devil was able to impart the faculty of sight to a man that was born blind,—alluding to the astonishing cure which Jesus had lately performed: Can a devil open the eyes of the blind?
John 10:22-23. It was—the feast of the dedication,— As this feast was in winter, it could not be observed in commemoration of the dedication of the temple by Solomon, which happened in the month Ethanim, which answers to our September. 1 Kings 8:2. Nor could it be the dedication of the temple by Nehemiah, which was in the spring. Ezra 6:15. But it was that which was kept in honourof the purification of the temple by JudasMaccabeus. This restoration of the worship of God was a very joyful event to every religious Israelite; and being considered as a new dedication, a great regard was paid to the festival instituted in commemoration of it. The festival itself went bythe name of lights, in allusion to the ceremony of burning a great number of lights at the doors of their houses. They celebrated this feast for eight days successively, beginning on the 25th of the month Casleu. 1Ma 4:56; 1Ma 4:59; 2Ma 10:5; 2Ma 10:8. But the latter half of that month falling in with the first half of our December, it was winter, and commonly bad weather at this feast: wherefore to avoid the inclemencies of the season, Jesus (who scrupled not to attend the feast, though it was of human institution) walked in Solomon's portico, which was a stately fabric, inclosingpart of the court of the Gentiles. When Solomon built the temple, finding the area of mount Sion too small to answer his magnificent plan, he filled up a part of the adjacent valley, and built this portico over it; which was a noble structure, consisting of three rows of pillars, of exquisite workmanship, and was called "The Royal Portico." It was supported by a wall four hundred cubits high, consisting of stones of a vast bulk, each stone being said to be twenty cubits long and six high. Josephus speaks of it as continuing even to the time of Albinus and Agrippa, which was several years after the death of Christ. See on Matthew 24:2.Acts 3:11; Acts 3:11; Acts 5:12.
John 10:24. Then came the Jews round about him, &c.— As our Lord was walking in Solomon's porch, the Jews came and required him to put them out of doubt, whether or no he was the Messiah. He well knew that they came not for real information: as it was not lawful for them to put any man to death, all they wanted was sufficient matter to accuse him before the ruling power: for this they watched, of this they were so anxiously desirous, and this made them so earnest for a declaration in express words from his own mouth, that he was the Messiah. It was not that they would have believed in him any more for such a declaration of himself, than they did for his miracles, or other ways of making himself known, which it appears they understood very sufficiently. But they wanted plain direct words, such as might support an accusation, and be of weight before a heathen judge. If thou be the Messiah, tell us plainly; that is, in direct words, such as express the thing without a figure, and without any reserve; for, that St. John used the word rendered plainly in that sense, we learn from chap. John 11:11-14.
John 10:25. Jesus answered them, I told you, &c.— "I have in effect told you over and over;"—for what our Lord had just been saying of himself in the preceding verses, as the good Shepherd, was in sense equivalent to a declaration of his being the Messiah: further, he had already performed those miracles which were to characterize and distinguish the Messiah, such as cleansing the lepers, curing the blind, &c. and if they had but judged by the characteristics of the Messiah given by many of their own rabbies, or by the dictates of unprejudiced reason, they must have acknowledged that he had sufficiently established his claim to the title of the Messiah.
John 10:26-28. But ye believe not, &c.— "The reason why you disbelieve me, is not becausethe proofs of my mission are insufficient, but because you are not of a humble teachable disposition, free from worldly passions, and willing to receive the doctrine which comes from God: persons of this character easily know by the nature of my doctrine and miracles who I am,—consequently are soon disposed to follow me; and I, on my part, readily acknowledge and receive them, and bestow upon them, if faithful unto death, eternal life, (John 10:27.) As I said unto you, my sheep hear my voice," &c. for so the passage should be read. See John 10:4; John 10:14; John 10:16. And they shall never perish, &c. John 10:28. "Though you maliciously endeavour to hinder men from believing on me, neither you, nor the powers of darkness, by whom you are actuated, shall be able to snatch my faithful people out of my hands: Neither shall any one,— ουδεις,— any enemy or evil one, (referring principally to the grand enemy of souls) pluck or snatch them,—my believing followers,—out of my hand." Our Lord still alludes to thediscourse that he had had before this festival; as if he had said, "My sheep are they who, 1 hear my voice by faith: 2 are known, that is, approved by me, as loving me; and, 3 follow me, keep my commandments with a believing, loving, faithful heart. And to those who, 1st, truly and perseveringlybelieve, [observe, three promises are annexed to three conditions,] I give eternal life." "Those whom, 2nd, I know truly to love me, shall never perish, provided they abide in my love. 3rdly, Those who follow me, that is, follow me perseveringly, neither men nor devils can pluck out of my hand."
John 10:30. I and my Father are one.— The Arians affirm that the sense of this passage is, "My Father and I are the same, in power and in will; so that if you oppose my will, you oppose his; and if you take my sheep out of my hand, you must at the same time overcome him, and take them out of his hand likewise." But if we attend, not only to the obvious meaning of these plain and strong words compared with other passages of scripture, but to their connection also, and the sense in which the Jews evidently took them, they utterly subvert the whole Arian scheme, and so fully demonstrate the Divinityof our blessed Redeemer, that they may be fairly left to speak for themselves, without any laboured comment. How widely different that sense is in which Christians are said to be one with God, Ch. Joh 17:21 will sufficiently appear by considering how flagrantlyabsurd and blasphemous it would be to draw that inference from their union with God, which Christ does from his. St. Augustin has well observed, that this is a very strong text to prove the divinity of Christ. "Mark in it, says he, both are, and one;—and you will be safe as well from Scylla as Charybdis. 'One' delivers you from Arius, who denies the eternal divinity of Christ: 'Are' delivers you from Sabellius, who denies a distinction of persons in the godhead." See for a proof of this same point, Isaiah 9:6. Jeremiah 23:6. Micah 5:2.
John 10:31-33. Then the Jews took up stones— As a full proof in what sense our Lord's hearers understood him, we find that they took up stones, and were going to kill him, in obedience, as they supposed, to the law, Lev 24:14 which ordered the blasphemer to be stoned. Our Lord remonstrates against this violent proceeding in terms the most striking and pathetic. "In confirmation of my mission from my Father, I have worked many miracles, all of a beneficent kind, and most becoming the perfection of him who sent me. I have fed the hungry, I have healed the lame, I have cured the sick, I have given sight to the blind, I have cast out devils, I have raised the dead; for which of all these are ye going to stone me?"—But they, perverse, and never to be persuaded, reply, "We are going to punish thee with death for no good work, but for blasphemy;for though thou art a man, weak and mortal as we ourselves are, thou arrogantly assumest to thyself the power and majesty of God, and by laying claim to the incommunicable attributes of the Deity, makest thyself God." This they took to be the plain meaning of his assertion, that He and the Father were one, John 10:30.
John 10:34. Is it not written, &c.— The Jews divided the Old Testament in various manners; sometimes, as we have before observed, into the writings of Moses, the Psalms, and the prophets; and at other times only into the law and the prophets; comprehending by the prophets, only the writings of those who were properly so called; but under the law, not only the five books of Moses, but likewise the Psalms, Proverbs, and historical books. Our Lord alludes to this latter division; for the words are found in Psalms 82:6. I have said, Ye are gods. The Jewish magistrates were God's deputies in an especial manner, because the people whom they governed were his peculiar people, and because in many instances they were expressly called by him to undertake the fatigues of government, and had an afflatus, or inspiration of the Spirit, for that end. Thus the high-priests derived their dignity from God, and were possessed of the Urim and Thummim, by which they inquired of the Lord; and for any of the people to rebel against the sentence of the high-priest or judge, pronounced by Urim, was justlyreckoned rebellion against God, and punished with death, Deuteronomy 17:8-13. When Moses chose the seventy elders to assisthim in the distribution of justice, God put his Spirit upon them, and they prophesied, Numbers 17:13. Joshua, who succeeded Moses by divine appointment, is said to have been a man in whom the Spirit was, Numbers 27:18. Many of the judges were raised up by God, and had his Spirit; and when Saul was anointed king, the Spirit of God came upon him, and he prophesied, 1 Samuel 6:10. See on Psalms 82:6.
John 10:35-36. If he called them gods, &c.— "If in the scripture, the authority of which you all acknowledge, they to whom the commandment of ruling God's people was given, are called gods, and the sons of God, on account of their high office, and the inspiration of the Spirit which was bestowed on them but sparingly, can you with reason say of him whom God the Father sent into the world on the grand errand of saving the human race, and whom he hath set apart for that work by giving him the Spirit without measure, (Ch. John 3:34.) Thou blasphemest, because he said I am the Son of God." Some give the argument another turn, thus, if they to whom the word of God, or the revelation of his will came, are called Gods in scripture, how dare you say to the Word of God himself, whom the Father hath sanctified and sent into the world; that is, by whom all the various revelations of the divine will have been made to men;—how dare you say to such a Person, on such an occasion, Thou blasphemest. Jesus was charged here by the Jews with ascribing Divinity to his human nature; and in reply he shews, that calling himself the Son of God, did not imply that; and that his works proved such an union of his human nature with the divine—with his supreme godhead,—as he had asserted.
John 10:38. That ye may know, and believe— "That ye may know that I neither do, nor say any thing, but by my Father's authority; for the Father and I are so intimately and entirely united, that every thing I say and do, is in reality said and done by him, and he approves of it accordingly." See John 10:30.
John 10:40. And went—into the place where John, &c.— To Beth-arbara, Ch. John 1:28. See also the latter part of the note on Luke 3:3. Our Lord seems to have remained in the country of Peroea till he came into Judea to raise Lazarus from the dead; that being the next particular mentioned by our evangelist; and if so, the time of Christ's abode in the country beyond Jordan must have been considerable. There is a peculiar beautyin this supposition; for allowing it to be just, the people dwelling on the other side of Jordan, enjoyed the doctrine and miracles of our blessed Saviour, as well as the inhabitants of Judea, Samaria, the Galilees, the countries on the east side of the lake, and those lying far north, about Tyre and Sidon, and Caesarea Philippi; whereas, according to the common opinion, Jesus did not exercise his ministry in Peroea for any length of time at all.
John 10:41-42. John did no miracle:— John was not endued with the power of working miracles, that the authority of Jesus might be more conspicuous and unquestionable. We hence see how strong a confirmation of our Lord's ministry was to be deduced by the people from that of John. Our Lord's public life was now drawing towards a conclusion; yet he had a great deal still to do. This was the reason that he did not conceal himself, as in the beginning of his ministry, but preached constantly in the places of greatest resort, and confirmed his doctrine by many miracles, which he suffered to be published every where. Accordingly, the success of his ministry in the country beyond Jordan was answerable to the power wherewith it was accompanied: many believed on him there.
Inferences.—Christ, the great Redeemer of the world, is and should always be regarded by us, as the door, the only door of entrance into his fold, from whom all true teachers derive their authority. It should be the care of pastors that they enter by this door, and that they learn their duty so plainly suggested here, namely, to know their sheep, and to take as particular notice as they can of each person committed to their charge; and that they go before them in all the paths of duty; for what could the greatest enemy of the flock do worse, than to lead them by example into the paths of destruction.
Happy souls, who are entered in by this door! They enjoy a holy liberty and plenty; and going in and coming out they find pasture. If we are strangers to that entertainment and refreshment which arises from the divine ordinances, those green pastures which Christ hath provided for his sheep in the wilderness, we have much reason to fear that we belong not to his flock. He came, that his sheep might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly—that greater provision might be made for their instruction and consolation now, till, if faithful, they are brought to those better pastures which he intends for them above. Oh that his grace may prepare us for them! Christ is the good Shepherd of our souls, which we must humbly commit to his care and guidance, as ever we desire that they should be safe and happy. He has not laid down his life in vain. Even when the sword of the Lord was awakened to smite him, he fell not so as to rise no more; but as in this great and good work he voluntarily laid down, so he has also resumed his life, bearing in his heart the deepest concern for his faithful flock, and using his renewed life and exalted dignity for their security and happiness.
We, believers of the Gentiles, are of those other sheep, of whom he spake, Joh 10:16 who by his grace are now brought in to the great Shepherd and Overseer of souls. Sensible of the high privileges that we enjoy, duty and gratitude should continually incline us to pray, that the boundaries of his fold may be still more extended; and that all the flock may at length appear together, and be conducted by him to the regions of immortal life. It is worthy of remark, that we here see our Lord Jesus at a festival appointed by human authority, in commemoration of a national deliverance. He came from Galilee to observe it in the temple, though it was winter, and brought with him at all times a heart glowing with the most ardent and amiable zeal for the honour of his heavenly Father, and the salvation of men, even of those who were studying to ensnare and destroy him.
What prudence, mingled with spirit and sweetness, runs through his answers to them! What inestimable blessings does he propose, to invite them to enter into his fold! May we never forget his gracious words; may we ever be entitled to all the comfort of them. Lord, may we be found in the number of those happy souls, even of those who know thee, who obey thy voice, and follow thee whither-soever thou leadest them by thine example, thy providence, thy Spirit.
Blessed is the situation of thy little flock! O thou faithful, thou compassionate, thou almighty Shepherd, who couldst say in so sublime and so glorious a sense, I and the Father are one, suffer us not to forget of what infinite importance it is that we still continue near thee, that we look up to thee for our defence and safety, and confide, not in our own power and wisdom, but in thine.
Who could have imagined that any heart could have been so base as to have intended evil, or any hands so cruel as to have armed themselves with instruments of death against such a Person, while speaking such words as these?—yet behold, these Jews do it, and that even in so sacred a place as the temple itself, as the genuine offspring of those who slew the prophet and the priest of the Lord even at his altar. Compare Mat 23:31-35 and Luke 11:48-51. Our Lord's wise and gentle reply disarmed them for a few months; and the divine care and power in an extraordinary manner provided for his escape, and once more rescued him from their murderous hands.
Happy the inhabitants of the country about Jordan, to which he retired, especially in that they knew the day of their visitation. The testimony of John the Baptist is now recollected to excellent purposes, though he himself was mouldering in his tomb; nor is there any thing which a faithful minister will more earnestly desire, (eternal God, may it be the happiness of thy unworthy servant!)—than that even while dead, he may yet speak for the honour of the adorable Jesus, and the salvation of souls.
REFLECTIONS.—1st, As the Pharisees and priests arrogated to themselves the dominion over the church, and boasted of their authority, wisdom, and sanctity, as the only true pastors; traducing Jesus as an impostor, because he acted without their ordination, Christ, in a parable, warns the people against their faithless pastors.
1. He proposes a parable to them, borrowed from a shepherd and his flock. Verily, verily I say unto you, with deepest solemnity and most infallible certainty, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber; such a clandestine entry shews the ill design on which he comes. The sheepfold is the church of God, where the faithful are united together in love, and share in the provision of gospel-ordinances provided for them; the door is Christ himself, by whom the faithful enter, and who by his Spirit calls and qualifies his ministers for their work. The thieves are those who intrude into the ministry without a divine call, influenced by the hopes of the honours and profits of the service, instead of being inwardly moved by the Holy Ghost, and animated by love to Jesus, and zeal for immortal souls; but he that entereth in by the door, is the shepherd of the sheep, whom Jesus calls and qualifies for this office; and who with fidelity and diligence attends, and feeds and watches over those souls, whom the Saviour commits to his care. To him the porter openeth, and the sheep hear his voice: the Spirit of God makes his ministry successful, and opens the hearts of sinners to receive the gospel that he preaches: and he calleth his own sheep by name, has an exact knowledge and care of them, and leadeth them out into green pastures of ordinances, and beside the waters of comfort. And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them as their shepherd, to protect them from danger; and the sheep follow him, close at his footsteps, imitating his example; for they know his voice; they have a discernment of gospel-truth, and approve of and submit to his teachings. And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him; for they knew not the voice of strangers; they discover the false principles or bad practices of those who set up for pretended guides, and will not put their souls under their tuition, or be influenced by their examples.
2. The Jews understood not the meaning of his discourse, and therefore Christ more explicitly opens to them his meaning.
[1.] He is the door; the only way of access to God and glory is through him, and none can enter into the ministry but by his call, and under his commission. All that went before, who never received a divine call from him, were thieves and robbers, intruders into the office to which God never called them, and robbing him of his glory: but the sheep, who alone know and are obedient to the voice of God, did not hear them, as neither coming with commission from God, nor bringing Divine doctrine with them. But of himself Christ saith, I am the door of access to, and acceptance with God; by me, through faith in my name, if any man enter in, he shall be saved from sin, from the condemning guilt and enslaving power of it; from the curse which the law pronounces; from Satan, and all the powers of evil; from deceivers, and all their wiles; and, if faithful unto death, shall be saved with an everlasting salvation; and shall go in and out, and find pasture, during his journey through life; he shall have free access to the ordinances, possess a glorious liberty in his spirit, be safe under the Shepherd's constant care, and be fed with the sweetest refreshments which the grace of the gospel ministers can bestow. Blessed and happy are they, who thus walk under the constant guard and guidance of the divine Redeemer.
[2.] He is the Shepherd, the great, the good, the true Shepherd.
(1.) The gracious design which he is come upon, is quite different from that of the false teachers. They, by their pernicious heresies, steal away the hearts of the unwary, prejudice them against the truth, and, while they promise them life and salvation, really murder their souls; and frequently they seek by persecutions to destroy the flock of Christ: while he is come, that his faithful people, the sheep of his pasture, may have life, the life of grace here, and the life of glory hereafter: yea, that they might have it more abundantly, fuller assurance and enjoyment of it than they ever had before.
(2.) The way in which he obtains these privileges for his faithful saints, is by his death. I am the good shepherd, eminently so; and, as the greatest instance of it, the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep, as I am ready to do, dying in their stead to redeem them from sin, death, and hell. And herein Christ's love towards them is in the most convincing manner evidenced. But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, who serves for lucre, not for the love of souls, whose own the sheep are not, regarding them with none of that affectionate concern which the owner feels; such a one seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep; whenever danger approaches, he deserts his post, and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep, perverting and seducing them. The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep: behold the true character of the false and faithless shepherd. (1.) He is one who serves for hire, and makes the ministry his trade. (2.) He feels no concern about the souls of men; and if he gets a revenue of the church, concerns himself not if the devil runs away with his flock. (3.) He never exposes himself to any danger, nor labours in the ministry, only careful about his own safety, and consulting his own ease. The very reverse is the character of a good minister: like his Master, his bosom glows with desire after the salvation of men's souls; he is ready to spend and be spent in the service of the ministry; he labours willingly, not for hire but from principle; and no dangers can deter him from his duty or drive him from his post.
(3.) As the good Shepherd, Christ is acquainted intimately with his flock and their concerns, and takes care of them. I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine; Christ knows particularly those who believe in him and love him; he regards them with tenderest affection; takes cognizance of all their wants, and kindly relieves and supplies them: and he is known by his believing people as the great object of their faith and hope, the author of their joy and happiness. As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father; even as the Father owns his affection and regard to me by the sure tokens of his presence and approbation; and I also acknowledge and honour the Father in the delight with which I do his will; so the affection in its degree is reciprocal between me and my sheep, even all my saints: and I lay down my life for the sheep, to testify my love, and to accomplish the great and essentially necessary atonement in their behalf. And other sheep I have which are not of this fold, are out of the pale of the Jewish church; them also I must bring, even all of the Gentile world that will accept of and believe in me from their guilt, misery, and ruin, into a state of favour and acceptance with God; and they shall hear my voice, believing in me, and wrought upon by the mighty influences of the divine Spirit; and there shall be one fold and one Shepherd; when all true believers, both Jews and Gentiles, shall be united in one glorious church, under their common head Jesus Christ, and share the same blessings and privileges. Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life; highly well-pleased in my undertaking, whereby such glory will accrue to him, and eternal salvation be obtained for all my faithful saints: for I lay it down, that I might take it again, rising for their justification. No man taketh it from me, neither force nor fraud avail any thing, till my own time comes; but I lay it down of myself, voluntarily, with my own consent: I have power to lay it down, a right and authority to lay it down as a satisfaction to divine justice; and I have power to take it again; having made the atonement, by my own almighty power, I will quicken my dead body, and raise it to eternal life and glory. This commandment have I received of my father, with whom he was most intimately one; and herein he delighted to do the will of God.
2nd, The discourse of Jesus gave occasion for warm debates among the Jews, whose sentiments were greatly divided concerning him.
1. Many, who were his enemies, cried out, He hath a devil, and is mad; why hear ye him? Can you be so weak and deluded, as to attend to such absurd and blasphemous nonsense? Thus does the world often scoff at the serious discourses of Christ's faithful ministers, and ridicule and revile those who pay attention to their preaching: but we should be neither threatened nor laughed out of our religion.
2. Others entertained very different sentiments, and said very sensibly, These are not the words of him that hath a devil; the nature of his doctrine, and his manner of speaking, favour nothing of insanity; nor can possibly tend to advance, but to destroy Satan's kingdom. Besides, Can a devil open the eyes of the blind? Can a madman, or much less a bad man under diabolical influence, perform such a miracle? The supposition is absurd and incredible. It evidently appeared that this was the finger of God.
3rdly, We have another discourse between Jesus and the Jews. We have,
1. The time, and place. It was at the feast of dedication, observed in remembrance of the renovation of the temple-service, when Judas Maccabaeus dedicated the new altar, and cleansed the temple which Antiochus had profaned, which was in the winter, in the month of December. And therefore Christ walked under cover, in a place called Solomon's porch.
2. Hither the Jews came to him; and surrounding him, in order to find cause of accusation, they urged him to tell them plainly and boldly, and leave them no longer in suspense by his figurative and dark expressions, whether he was the Christ or not.
3. Christ knew their malicious designs, and therefore answered them, I told you in terms sufficiently plain, if you chose to understand them, and ye believed not, and were determined not to believe: it was vain, therefore, to add farther assertions; and he chose to refer them to the miracles which abundantly proved his mission, the works that I do in my Father's name, they bear witness of me. But ye believe not, obstinate in your infidelity, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you; their tempers and dispositions plainly shewed they were not; and Christ, who was acquainted with their hearts, well knew that they were not of those whose character and conduct he describes: My sheep hear my voice, with attention, discernment, and spiritual delight, and I know them, take cognizance of them, and distinguish them with my peculiar favour and regard; and they follow me in the ways of truth and righteousness, obedient to my word, and imitating my example. And I give unto them eternal life; they have a present title thereto, experience the beginning of it here, and, if faithful to me and themselves, they shall never perish; neither shall any enemy, be he ever so subtle, or ever so outrageous, be able to pluck them out of my hand, or injure them, while they remain in it. Nor indeed is it possible that any of their adversaries should; for my Father which gave them me, (see the Annotations on John 6:37; John 6:39.) is greater than all, infinitely superior in wisdom and power to all their enemies that can possibly be against them; and none is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand, no power in hell, no power on earth, none but themselves: that awful power is invested in themselves alone. If they cleave to me, they must inevitably be safe. For I and my Father are one, in nature, essence, and perfections: the union betwixt us, is so strict and intimate, in substance as well as in affection and design, that his almighty power is mine, to be employed for the defence of my faithful saints; and no adversary can deprive them of eternal life without prevailing against him as well as me.
4. The Jews, fired with rage, could no longer refrain, but took up stones again to stone him as a blasphemer.
5. Jesus mildly expostulated with them on their baseness, saying, Many good works have I shewed you from my Father; works of such benevolence and wonder, as evidenced his mission divine: for which of those works do ye stone me? how horrid is your ingratitude! how base your returns! Note; (1.) Nothing aggravates our sins against God so much as our vile ingratitude. (2.) If we meet with the most ungrateful returns from those on whom we have conferred the greater obligations, we must not think it strange: Jesus was so treated before us.
6. The Jews attempt to vindicate their conduct, saying, For a good work we stone thee not, but for blasphemy; and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God; for in this light they interpreted his claim of unity with the Father, and his assuming the incommunicable attributes of the Deity. Note; Pretended zeal for God's honour has been the pretext which persecutors have often used to cover the most violent outrages against his most faithful servants.
7. Christ proves that he had the fuller right to those divine honours which he claimed. Is it not written in your law, I said ye are gods? Psalms 82:6. If he called them gods, who, as magistrates, were types of the King Messiah, and unto whom the word of God came; entrusted by him with the government of the Jewish church and nation; and the scripture cannot be broken, but must receive its accomplishment in that Messiah, who really possesses divine honour, and authority, and is intitled to that high name which they bore as his representatives; say ye then of him, whom the Father hath sanctified, and set apart for the great work of redemption, and in the fulness of time sent into the world, Thou blasphemest, because I said, I am the Son of God? But besides the scripture testimony, I appeal to my miracles: If I do not the works of my Father, as great as might be expected from him, and by my own power as God; if these do not speak my divine character, and that I am entitled to the honour I claim as Son of God, believe me not; I am content to be rejected by you: but if I do works so great, and in such a manner, as declare my divine power and Godhead, though ye believe not me, on my own word and assertions, believe the works, those unexceptionable evidences, that ye may know and believe that the Father is in me, and I in him; we being one in nature and essence, having the most intimate union and communion in the same undivided Godhead.
4thly, Far from appeasing their fury, Christ, by maintaining his right to the essential glories of Divinity, exasperated them to the higher pitch. Whereupon,
1. They sought again to take him; concluding they had now full evidence against him, to convict him as a blasphemer, and get him legally condemned by the sanhedrim, and put to death.
2. As the time for Christ's sufferings was not yet come, he escaped out of their hand; either holding their arms by an invisible power from seizing him, or their eyes from seeing him.
3. He retired beyond Jordan, into the place where John at first baptized; and there he abode, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and gathering some fruit from the seed which John had sown there about two or three years before.
4. Many resorted to him there, drawn by his preaching and miracles; and said, John did no miracle: but all things that John spake of this man were true. He appears with that transcendent greatness and glory, in which John spake of him. And many believed on him there, as the true Messiah. Note; (1.) Though persecutors drive the ministers of Christ from one place, God will take care to send them where he has still greater work for them to do. (2.) Jesus will be peculiarly welcome with his gospel, to those, whose hearts, by the sharp convictions of the law, as by the austere Baptist's ministry, are broken with a humbling sense of sin.
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on John 10". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
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